A woman believes her dog saved her life by ‘sniffing out’ sepsis after she developed the life-threatening condition from third-degree burns due to a bad reaction to hair dye.
Levi Carter, 22, from Lincolnshire, booked herself into a hair salon in February 2018 to get her hair professionally bleached to go from brunette to blonde.
Within minutes of the peroxide bleach being applied, she claims her scalp started to burn and it was ‘smoking’ – before the stylist quickly washed it off.
The burns became more painful and Levi returned to hospital after she believed her Yorkshire terrier – called Chico – ‘sensed’ her infection.
The support worker was diagnosed with sepsis and was treated ‘just in time’ – however she has been left with permanent bald spots nearly three years later.
Levi is hoping to warn others around the importance of doing a patch test before using hair dye.
Levi Carter, 22, from Lincolnshire, claims her Yorkshire Terrier Chico ‘sniffed out’ the sepsis she developed following a bad reaction to hair dye in 2018
Levi said: ‘The whole thing has been incredibly traumatic.
‘I’ve been left with huge bald patches and will need surgery to try and cover them.
‘I only went back into the hospital because my dog wouldn’t leave me alone – he must have smelt the infection.
‘If I left it any longer then who knows what would have happened – I might not be here. Chico saved my life.’
Levi said her scalp started to ‘smoke’ at the salon after a stylish bleached her hair and wrapped it in foil. Pictured, some of the damaged sustained by Levi after the bleach
The dog-lover, who said the experience had been ‘traumatic,’ was left with a bald spot on her scalp, which is still there nearly three years later
Levi, who works as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, would regularly dye her hair at home.
When she wanted a dramatic change from brunette to blonde, Levi booked herself in a salon – which has since closed down – to get it professionally done in February 2018.
After the stylist had applied the peroxide hair bleach all over her head, Levi felt a ‘burning sensation’ and instantly knew something wasn’t right.
She said: ‘After bleaching it they wrapped my head in cling film and it started to hurt. It was really painful and my head actually started smoking.
‘We went straight to the sinks and ran my head under a cold tap for about 20 minutes.
‘They felt really bad and offered to dye a different colour and I ended up leaving with it bright red.’
Yorkshire Terrier Chico (pictured) would not stop sniffing Levi’s scalp, which caused her to go to the A&E, where was transferred to a burn’s unit in Nottingham
A close-up picture of Levi’s bald spot (pictured). She explained there was still some of the peroxide that was used to bleach her hair on her head when she left the salon, which ended up burning her scalp
A picture showing the damage sustained on Levi’s scalp after she was burnt by the peroxide in the hair bleach that was applied on her head
The cut and colour cost Levi £40 – the salon knocked the price down from the original £60.
Levi was eventually referred to Nottingham Hospital’s burns unit where she was treated for third-degree burns on her scalp.
‘I went out with some friends that night but I was in a lot of pain,’ she explained. ‘It turned out there was still peroxide on my scalp and it ended up burning my head.
‘I was given some antibiotics and hoped it would start to clear up. Over the next four weeks, the burns on Levi’s head continued to ‘weep’ and become more painful.
Levi was treated for third-degree burns, pictured, swiftly after her hair was bleached thanks to her trusted dog Chico who raised the alarm
Levi’s hair had to be shaven (pictured) in order to treat her scalp was burnt by bleach. She said she could even smell the wound
A look at the sepsis that had started to develop by the roots of Levi’s hair at the back of her head
Levi revealed it took several surgeries and will take more to come to restore her scalp to the way it was before the incident (pictured: the wound after Levi’s hair started to grow back)
She was alerted to the issue by her pet pooch Chico, who she believes could ‘smell’ an infection developing.
When Levi noticed the smell herself – and Chico refused to leave her alone – she went back to hospital where she was admitted and treated for the life-threatening infection sepsis.
‘Chico wouldn’t leave me alone and he could smell something wasn’t right,’ Levi explained. ‘Eventually I started to smell the wounds so I went back to hospital.
‘The doctors said they caught it before it got too serious and I was kept on a drip for three days.’
Although Levi’s burns began to heal the damage to her hair follicles was so severe she has been left with several bald patches.
What are the key symptoms of sepsis? The ‘silent killer’ that can cause death in minutes
Sepsis, known as the ‘silent killer’, strikes when an infection such as blood poisoning sparks a violent immune response in which the body attacks its own organs.
It is a potentially life-threatening condition, triggered by an infection or injury. Around 245,000 people develop sepsis in the UK each year and 52,000 die, according to the UK Sepsis Trust.
Instead of attacking the invading bug, the body turns on itself, shutting down vital organs.
If caught early enough, it’s easily treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, but these must be given as soon as sepsis is suspected – it strikes with frightening speed and, for every hour of delay, a patient’s chance of dying increases 8 per cent.
Sepsis is a leading cause of avoidable death killing 44,000 people each year
The early symptoms of sepsis can be easily confused with more mild conditions, meaning it can be difficult to diagnose.
A high temperature (fever), chills and shivering, a fast heartbeat and rapid breathing are also indicators.
A patient can rapidly deteriorate if sepsis is missed early on, so quick diagnosis and treatment is vital – yet this rarely happens.
In the early stages, sepsis can be mistaken for a chest infection, flu or upset stomach.
It is most common and dangerous in older adults, pregnant women, children younger than one, people with chronic conditions or those who have weakened immune systems.
The six signs of something potentially deadly can be identified by the acronym ‘SEPSIS’:
- Slurred speech or confusion
- Extreme shivering or muscle pain
- Passing no urine in a day
- Severe breathlessness
- Skin that’s mottled or discoloured
Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should seek medical help urgently — and ask doctors: ‘Could this be sepsis?’
In August 2019 Levi underwent a scalp reduction surgery to stretch the skin on her head and cover the missing hair.
Unfortunately the operation didn’t take and she’s need to undergo more surgery to try and repair the bald spots.
‘It’s left me incredibly self-conscious and I struggled for a long time,’ she explained. ‘I haven’t been able to go into a hairdressers again so I dye my hair at home.
‘I need more surgery and doctors are planning to inflate balloons under the skin on my scalp because the first operation didn’t work.
‘It should stretch it enough so they bring it together and hopefully close the bald spots.
‘It’s so important to do a patch test first because you have no idea how your skin is going to react. I wish I’d done that in the first place and maybe I wouldn’t have lost my hair.
‘I’m just thankful my dog made me act on it – otherwise who knows where I’d be and if I’d even be here today.’